Top 10 Mistakes

By Brad Wieners  |  Posted 2004-07-05 Print this article Print

In 1999, you revisited your "Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design" from 1996. Lets compare 1999 to now. What continue to be the most persistent challenges?

Bad search continues to be a problem today, even though, from a technology perspective, great progress has been made. You can see this plainly when you use the public search engines. Theyre much better today than they were 10 years ago. But the search on individual Web sites or inside intranets is, typically, still bad. And its bad in all the different aspects of search. Its usually not unified search—no one search can search everything. This is a particular intranet problem. Things are divided up into different knowledge bases, so youve got to know where to search, and if you need to know where to go to search, then that defeats the entire idea.

The other problem about search is the content, which is to say the individual pages, or units of information, are typically poorly described in terms of things like the headline and the summaries, which is all people have to choose from when they get the search-results listing.
So, if there was just one thing we could fix on the Web, and for intranets as well, I would say lets fix search; thats still the No. 1 single thing thats causing people problems.

What else?

The second thing thats causing the most problems is information architecture, which continues to be driven more by how the information is produced than by how its consumed. Intranets are usually divided up by which department does which things, as opposed to what tasks employees have, or which work activities people have.

And Ill just mention one glaring mistake that most companies make: They divide up their networks or Web sites between products and supplies and service. There are typically three different places because there are three different divisions doing it. For a customer, however, if I have a certain copier, lets say the X17 copier, and I want toner for that machine, or I want to get it serviced—well, what I want is to go and find my copier and, once I find it, I want to get supplies for my copier, I want to get some trouble-shooting, self-service information. But its a major effort because these are in different places. So, thats something we find almost every time we do a study: that information is not structured in the way that people think of it. And that has been a problem for all 10 years.

And then the last thing—I mean, theres millions of these things. But another one I want to mention is lack of clarity in the content. In other words, the descriptions, the actual information, doesnt clearly answer the questions people have. Its all kind of buried under a huge, thick layer of marketing, you know, of hype, and its not concrete. [The content] does not explicitly say what you want to know.

Let me give you a very small example. I was looking at a hotel, and so the hotel Web site says, "Ample parking is available," but you have to pay for it, in this parking garage located in the same block as the hotel. Well, thats all very nice, but cant you just tell me how many dollars a day it is to park there? OK, its downtown. Ive got to pay for parking. I can accept that. But how much is it?

So, you definitely advise publishing prices online.

Thats the No. 1 specific thing people always ask for, and I think its a completely mistaken idea that youre going to lose customers if you tell them what its going to cost, because nobodys going to buy anything without knowing what it costs.

Next Page: Why is there resistance to doing usability reviews?


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